Bognor boost squad with Pompey defender and former Stoke City youngster

Matt Casey tracks Jimmy Muitt in Pompey's pre-season visit to Bognor / Picture: Tommy McMillan
Matt Casey tracks Jimmy Muitt in Pompey's pre-season visit to Bognor / Picture: Tommy McMillan

Bognor bosses Jack Pearce and Robbie Blake have turned to Pompey to boost the Rocks squad ahead of Saturday's Isthmian premier clash at Leatherhead.

Young Pompey central defender Matt Casey has joined to replace the departed Joe Cook - and the club have also increased their options up front by signing attacker Mo Diallo, a former Stoke City and Arsenal youngster, from SCFL Premier Division side Newhaven.

Matt Casey on his pro debut, for Pompey against Arsenal under-21s in the Checkatrade Trophy in 2018 / Picture: Sean Ryan

Matt Casey on his pro debut, for Pompey against Arsenal under-21s in the Checkatrade Trophy in 2018 / Picture: Sean Ryan

Towering centre-half Casey played, and scored with a looping header, at Nyewood Lane on Thursday night as Pompey U23s drew 2-2 with Exeter City. He joins on a youth loan, which means he will stay with the club until February 9, at which point the arrangement will be looked at.

Casey, who turned 20 in November, was handed a third-year scholarship at Pompey in May 2018, following a fruitful two-year spell within the club's Under-18s. The lofty centre-half - nicknamed 'Rodders', after Nicholas Lyndhurst's beanpole character in popular sitcom 'Only Fools and Horses' - signed a two-year apprenticeship in July 2016.

Technically astute and an assured presence at the back, the youngster has been tipped for a bright future within the game by development bosses at Fratton Park.

He was an unused substitute in the Blues squad that beat Northampton 2-0 in the Checkatrade Trophy second round in December 2017, and subsequently for a handful of Sky Bet League One fixtures.

Casey suffered an injury setback at the start of the 2018/19 season, missing three months' worth of action due to a broken collarbone days after heading out on loan to Gosport Borough. Following his return to fitness, Casey made his professional debut in the Checkatrade Trophy against Arsenal Under-21s in December 2018.

Diallo, 19, who has been on Stoke and Arsenal's books, is not a loan signing but is a player the Rocks are keen to have a closer look at. He has been doing well for Newhaven this season in the top tier of the Southern Combination. He does not go into the squad for the Leatherhead game.

The Rocks have lost two home games on the spin — to Worthing then Margate — and Casey's capture should help fix the rearguard void left by the impressive Joe Cook returning from a loan period back to his parent club Havant.

Bognor manager Pearce said after watching Casey play for the Blues last night: "Matt did very well, showed some good touches and his positioning was good, too.

"Mo trained with us pre-season and we liked what we saw then and he's been good in training with us latterly so it makes perfect sense to sign him and we'll try to give him opportunities at this level to see what he can do.”